Page last updated at 07:12 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Japan's exports grow for first time in 15 months

Tokyo docks
Japan exports to Asia rose by 31% compared with a year earlier

Japan's exports grew for the first time in 15 months in December, boosted by demand in Asia and China in particular, official figures have shown.

Exports hit 5.4tn yen ($60bn; £37bn), up 12.1% on a year ago. Shipments to Asia rose by almost a third.

The Japanese finance ministry said China had now overtaken the US as Japan's largest overseas market.

China is also on the verge of overtaking Japan as the world's second largest economy.

Japanese imports fell by 5.5% to 4.9tn yen, leading to a trade surplus for December of 545.3tn yen.

Asian focus

Analysts said Japan would continue to rely on Asia to drive its growth in exports.

"Most countries around the world are seeing their economies recover but improvements in advanced economies remain fragile," said Takeshi Minami at the Norinchukin Research Institute.

"We can't rely too much on strong growth in those countries, so Japanese exports will continue to focus on shipments to Asia."

On Tuesday, Japan's central bank kept its key interest on hold at 0.1% and said the country's economy would continue to suffer from deflation, or falling prices, for another three years.

Japan's economy, which is driven by exports, came out of recession in the April-June quarter last year, but there have been concerns about the strength of its recovery.

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